Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): It will be hard to top last year’s Super Bowl (although RotoPat only ranked it as the fourth-best Super Bowl of this century), but the Patriots and Eagles will do their best Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis (or as Gronk pronounces it, Minneannapolis). We know what’s at stake. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are looking to cement their legacy as the greatest player/coach duo in NFL history with a sixth Super Bowl title. Meanwhile the underdog Eagles are looking to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history. The Pats opened as six-point favorites but we’ve already seen that number come down to 4.5.
So who do you guys like for the big game? Do you believe in miracles (for what it’s worth, Al Michaels is on the call for Sunday’s game) or will the robot-like Patriots bring another ring back to Foxboro?
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): What’s interesting about this matchup is that the Eagles are almost a carbon copy of the team New England just played in the AFC Championship. Like the Jaguars, Philadelphia has a dominant front four that can pressure the quarterback. The corners aren’t nearly as good, but the Eagles boast one of the better safety duos in the league and finished seventh in pass defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.
This is another quality defense, and, unfortunately for the Patriots, perhaps a better offense than the one they faced two weeks ago. Philadelphia’s O line is one of the league’s best, the Eagles have averaged a solid 4.45 yards per carry since the arrival of Jay Ajayi and Nick Foles has been hyper-efficient throughout the playoffs. His 10.44 adjusted yards per attempt would be the 20th-highest in NFL history among quarterbacks who have attempted at least 20 passes in a single postseason.
The Patriots also have a history of playing close games in the Super Bowl. Under Bill Belichick, six of their seven title games have been decided by four points or less. The one exception was the win over Atlanta last season, which was the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. Last season was also the first time the Patriots covered as the favorite, with their other two against-the-spread wins coming as a pick ‘em and a heavy underdog. All signs point to the Eagles at +4.5.
P.S. In New England’s seven Super Bowls under Belichick, a TOTAL of 15 points have been scored in the first quarter with the Patriots scoring exactly zero of them. Four of those games finished the first stanza at 0-0. Under 9.5 and the Eagles +120 to be leading at the end of the first quarter are two of my favorite prop bets for Sunday.
Pantuosco: Losing Carson Wentz to a torn ACL, being underdogs to both the Falcons and Vikings in their first two playoff games—nothing seems to faze Doug Pederson’s squad. The Eagles have been proving us wrong all year, so why doubt them now?
Well I can think of one reason why. It doesn’t matter who his receivers are—Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, Colonel Mustard, Captain Crunch—Tom Brady will get it done. He always does. And as we’ve seen time and again, it doesn’t really matter if the Patriots face an early deficit. In fact, they seem to relish playing from behind.
As I alluded to in my Super Bowl rundown earlier this week, the most effective method for stopping Tom Brady, or at least slowing him, is to win in the trenches. That doesn’t necessarily mean blitzing more, because we know the Patriots can nickel and dime you all day with short passes. But if the Eagles are going to spring the upset, they have to win at the line of scrimmage, and I think they’re well-equipped to do that. Fletcher Cox has been borderline unstoppable while Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry have also made their presence felt against opposing QBs. That’s a formidable group, but the Jaguars also had a talented D line and a better secondary than Philadelphia and guess where that got them? A seat on the couch next to the Titans and every other team the Patriots demoralized on their way to the Super Bowl.
I know he was magnificent against the Vikings, but I’m still a bit skeptical of Nick Foles. He completed a Kizer-esque 56.4 percent of his passes during the regular season and had thrown just one touchdown in his previous three games prior to his eruption against Minnesota (that includes an abbreviated Week 17 performance against Dallas). The Eagles have a stout O line and strong weapons in the passing game—Nelson Agholor has a particularly good matchup against slot corner Eric Rowe. But can Foles really be expected to keep pace with the greatest quarterback of all-time? I think that’s asking a bit much.
Like all Patriots Super Bowls, this one will be a nail-biter, but I’m giving Brady and Belichick the nod. For some reason I’ve had 27-23 in my head all week, so I’ll pick New England to win by that score.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): I had a lot of individual player thoughts in my fantasy write-up, so I'll keep things brief. The Eagles are arguably the most complete team in football. I believe they’ll run the ball well, as Ray mentioned, and I expect them to put up points against a New England squad that has historically played tight games in the Super Bowl. The Patriots don't force a ton of turnovers, either.
However, I still have the Pats coming out ahead and believe they'll use a similar game plan to the one they implemented a few weeks ago against Tennessee. In that game, they bled the defense with their shallow passing game, relied heavily on running backs and also found a way to involve Rob Gronkowski. The Eagles have been a better defensive team than New England, but they’ve also had the benefit of playing at a hostile home field since mid-December. The last time the Eagles went on the road, they gave up over 400 passing yards to Eli Manning, and prior to that were torn up by the Rams and Seahawks, something I still can't shake. In the end, give me the Patriots, 27-20.
Nick Mensio (@NickMensio): Go Eagles! That’s all I really have to say. I realize the Patriots' greatness, but like most fans outside of the New England cocoon, I've gotten really tired of seeing them in (and then winning) the Super Bowl. I'll be rocking my Terrell Owens Eagles jersey and hoping for the best. Eagles 27, Patriots 23.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): The unknown at the heart of Super Bowl LII is Nick Foles. Will he be the Derek Carr Nick Foles who showed up late in the regular season or the Steve Young version who showed up around halftime of the Divisional Round? Fueled by run/pass option plays, Foles ambushed the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. But the thing about a good ambush is that it only works once. The Vikes, rightfully, probably underestimated what a Foles-led offense could do to them. The Patriots, led by the greatest coach in NFL history, won’t be making the same mistake.
It is absolutely imperative for the Eagles to get off to a fast start and probably imperative for them to go into halftime with a two-score lead. Like his mentor Andy Reid, Doug Pederson usually comes out hot with an excellent game script. He’s a first-half coach (not that he’s bad in the second). Bill Belichick makes his money after the break. If the Pats are winning or within one score at halftime, it’s hard to see how the Eagles withstand the second-half onslaught. Ultimately, despite his valiant postseason play, I believe Foles will be the X-factor that swings the game to the Pats and gives Belichick and Brady their sixth Lombardi together. I expect a score in the 27-17 range.